Why Many People In The Middle Now Identify With The Left

While the country has become more liberal in some ways, the Republican Party has moved to the extreme right, and the Democratic Party has filled in the vacuum in the middle by also moving to the right on many issues. As a consequence, many people who previously considered themselves in the middle are finding that the current views of the left are closer to their views. Thomas Ricks, who wrote Fiasco, and excellent look at the Iraq War, described why he moved to the left at Politico:

Disappointment in the American government over the last 10 years. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first big shocks. I thought that invading Afghanistan was the right response to the 9/11 attacks, but I never expected the U.S. military leadership would be so inept in fighting there and in Iraq, running the wars in ways that made more enemies than were stopped. I believe that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, not only launched on false premises but also strategically foolish in that ultimately it has increased Iran’s power in the Middle East.

Torture. I never expected my country to endorse torture. I know that torture has existed in all wars, but to my knowledge, its use, under the chilling term “enhanced interrogation,” was never official U.S. policy until this century. In fact, until our recent wars, the American military had a proud heritage of handling its prisoners better than most. During the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington reminded his men of the need to “Treat [captives] with humanity, and Let them have no reason to complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army.”

How we fought. I never thought that an American government would employ mercenaries in a war. And yet we did this in Iraq by hiring thousands of armed “security contractors” who in practice were subject neither to local law nor to the American military justice system, and so could and often did treat Iraqis badly. In September 2007, I remember, American officers, who by then understood the need to treat Iraqi civilians well, were outraged when Blackwater employees shot 37 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square—the rough equivalent of opening up on the lunch crowd in Dupont Circle. Yet to my knowledge, the U.S. government has not studied how the use of mercenaries poisoned the conduct of the war. Indeed, it gives every indication of planning to operate the same way in the future.

Intelligence officials run amok. I think that American intelligence officials have shown a contempt for the way our democracy is supposed to work in turning a vast and unaccountable apparatus on the citizens it is supposed to be protecting. I remain wary of Edward Snowden’s motivations and connections, yet still am worried by the intrusive surveillance by the National Security Agency he has unveiled. At the very least, in a democracy, we should be able to be informed about the actions that have eroded our privacy but supposedly were taken in our name.

Growing income inequality. I also have been dismayed by the transfer of massive amounts of wealth to the richest people in the country, a policy supported over the last 35 years by successive administrations of both parties. Apparently income redistribution downward is dangerously radical, but redistribution upward is just business as usual. The middle class used at least to get lip service from the rich—“backbone of the country” and such. Now it is often treated like a bunch of saps not aware enough to evade their taxes.

This led to a lengthy discussion at The Moderate Voice, where I also blog. Many of the bloggers and regular commentators there are in a similar position, thinking of themselves as moderates but finding their views are now more in line with the left, especially on social issues. While Ricks didn’t mention social issues, the desire to keep government out of the private lives of individuals has led many people to abandon the Republicans and the conservative movement.

Opposition to the Iraq War and related issues has generally been the defining issue for the formation of the liberal “netroots” and this dominates Ricks’ reasons. Republicans typically use fear and distort Democratic views, such as with the misquotation of Obama as the theme of the last Republican convention, to falsely paint liberals as being for socialism. There are no such economic views listed by Ricks, and the same is typical of many liberals. There is a far greater variation in views on the left than on the right, but the center of gravity has moved rightwards on economic issues. Liberals tend to be  more pragmatists and closer to Eisenhower Republicans than anything close to socialist (by its classic meaning).

If the word conservative really meant anything, in many ways today’s liberals are the conservatives who want to preserve our market economy, while eliminating its abuses, while Republicans are the radicals who want to destroy the system and make our economy more like a banana republic. It is the Republicans who are irresponsible fiscally, financing their policies on credit (while Democrats are more likely to include financing for their policies), caring more about tax cuts for the rich as opposed to cutting the deficit, and rigging the system to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the rich. Besides the ethical problems with this, destroying the middle class is horrible for the economy, and in the long run doesn’t even benefit the rich either, unless you want to live in a banana republic. On top of this we have the Republicans engaging in irresponsible action such as shutting down the government and making an issue out of increasing the debt ceiling, resulting in a lowering of the country’s credit rating.

The Affordable Care Act is a good example of how both parties have moved to the right on health care. Obamacare is quite close to Richard Nixon’s health care plan, the GOP counter-proposal to HillaryCare in the 90′s, and Mitt Romney’s plan. Republicans used to push for mandates, exchanges, and recommended high deductible plans tied to medical savings accounts. Once Obama pushed for all of this, as opposed to previous more liberal health care proposals, the Republicans suddenly claimed that everything they supported in the past is socialism and amounts to a government takeover of health care. (Of course part of the Republican opposition is because Obamacare does differ from the old Republican proposals in including regulations to keep insurance companies from ripping off consumers while pushing to increase use of private insurance companies.)

Conservatives are likely to misinterpret the inclusion of concerns about income inequality by Ricks, as well as myself  in this post, as indicating support for socialism. Concern about the deleterious effects of  the concentration of wealth to our economy is not an exclusively liberal viewpoint–see the works of Kevin Phillips on this. Nor does this mean that socialism is being advocated as the solution.

Nicholas Kristof has an op-ed on income inequality which is worth reviewing:

First, economic inequality has worsened significantly in the United States and some other countries. The richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Oxfam estimates that the richest 85 people in the world own half of all wealth.

The situation might be tolerable if a rising tide were lifting all boats. But it’s lifting mostly the yachts. In 2010, 93 percent of the additional income created in America went to the top 1 percent.

Second, inequality in America is destabilizing. Some inequality is essential to create incentives, but we seem to have reached the point where inequality actually becomes an impediment to economic growth.

Certainly, the nation grew more quickly in periods when we were more equal, including in the golden decades after World War II when growth was strong and inequality actually diminished. Likewise, a major research paper from the International Monetary Fund in April found that more equitable societies tend to enjoy more rapid economic growth.

Indeed, even Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, warns that “too much … has gone to too few” and that inequality in America is now “very destabilizing.”

Inequality causes problems by creating fissures in societies, leaving those at the bottom feeling marginalized or disenfranchised. That has been a classic problem in “banana republic” countries in Latin America, and the United States now has a Gini coefficient (a standard measure of inequality) approaching some traditionally poor and dysfunctional Latin countries.

Third, disparities reflect not just the invisible hand of the market but also manipulation of markets. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote a terrific book two years ago, “The Price of Inequality,” which is a shorter and easier read than Piketty’s book. In it, he notes: “Much of America’s inequality is the result of market distortions, with incentives directed not at creating new wealth but at taking it from others.”

For example, financiers are wealthy partly because they’re highly educated and hardworking — and also because they’ve successfully lobbied for the carried interest tax loophole that lets their pay be taxed at much lower rates than other people’s.

Likewise, if you’re a pharmaceutical executive, one way to create profits is to generate new products. Another is to lobby Congress to bar the government’s Medicare program from bargaining for drug prices. That

Fourth, inequality doesn’t necessarily even benefit the rich as much as we think. At some point, extra incomes don’t go to sate desires but to attempt to buy status through “positional goods” — like the hottest car on the block.

The problem is that there can only be one hottest car on the block. So the lawyer who buys a Porsche is foiled by the C.E.O. who buys a Ferrari, who in turn is foiled by the hedge fund manager who buys a Lamborghini. This arms race leaves these desires unsated; there’s still only one at the top of the heap.

Fifth, progressives probably talk too much about “inequality” and not enough about “opportunity.” Some voters are turned off by tirades about inequality because they say it connotes envy of the rich; there is more consensus on bringing everyone to the same starting line.

Unfortunately, equal opportunity is now a mirage. Indeed, researchers find that there is less economic mobility in America than in class-conscious Europe.

We know some of the tools, including job incentives and better schools, that can reduce this opportunity gap. But the United States is one of the few advanced countries that spends less educating the average poor child than the average rich one. As an escalator of mobility, the American education system is broken.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Update: Norm Ornstein On The Republican Battle Between The Conservatives And Lunatic Radicals

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Bipartisan Report On Torture After 9/11

In case anyone still had any doubt that George Bush and Dick Cheney should be tried as war criminals, a bipartisan report confirms the long-standing criticism of torture being used under them:

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.

While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.

“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says.

The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

Interrogation and abuse at the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites, the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and war-zone detention centers, have been described in considerable detail by the news media and in declassified documents, though the Constitution Project report adds many new details.

It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.

But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for days on end.

The question of whether those methods amounted to torture is a historically and legally momentous issue that has been debated for more than a decade inside and outside the government. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2005 concluding that the methods were not torture if used under strict rules; all the memos were later withdrawn. News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not.

In addition, the United States is a signatory to the international Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims.

Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.

The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees.

Mr. Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he “took convincing” on the torture issue. But after the panel’s nearly two years of research, he said he had no doubts about what the United States did.

“This has not been an easy inquiry for me, because I know many of the players,” Mr. Hutchinson said in an interview. He said he thought everyone involved in decisions, from Mr. Bush down, had acted in good faith, in a desperate effort to try to prevent more attacks.

“But I just think we learn from history,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “It’s incredibly important to have an accurate account not just of what happened but of how decisions were made.”

He added, “The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture.”

The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews.

Many on the right justified these actions belieing they were necessary for our national security. Therefore I will repeat the line above which points out:  The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

 

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Osama bin Laden Captured by Painstaking Intelligence Work, Not By Torture

It is a common behavior of the right wing to take any real world events and try to twist them to support their warped beliefs. The classic example of this was the right wing using the 9/11 terrorist attack as justification for the Iraq war. Now they are trying to turn the news over the killing of Osama bin Laden into justification for torture. Torture is a technique developed to force false confessions–not to obtain accurate information. The information actually provided by water boarding was trivial, and not the reason that bin Laden was found.  After all, if water boarding was the solution, why didn’t Bush find bin Laden a long time ago?

Defenders of the interrogation technique raised the issue, earning write-ups in several high-profile publications, including The New York Times and Time magazine. It was also put forward in most bin Laden-related news interviews with Obama officials. The problem, those officials stress, is that questioning the effectiveness of waterboarding in the bin Laden case oversimplifies a complex issue to which there may not be any concrete answers.

“There is no possible way to know for sure,” said one senior Obama administration official. “Even if waterboarding did produce something — and that is debatable, the timeline seems very unclear — it is impossible to say whether interrogation absent it would have produced the same thing. It might have. Lots of detainees provided [intelligence].”

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor was more directly dismissive. “I think this is a distraction from the broader picture, which is that this achievement was the result of years of painstaking work by our intelligence community that drew from multiple sources,” he said. “It’s impossible to know whether information obtained by EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] could have been obtained by other forms of interrogation.”

By most accounts, harsh interrogation measures including waterboarding did not play a role in helping to track bin Laden’s whereabouts or his associates. According to the Times, in 2002 and 2003 “interrogators first heard about a Qaeda courier who used the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti” — the same courier who would ultimately lead the CIA to bin Laden’s location. But, the Times reported, “his name was just one tidbit in heaps of uncorroborated claims.”

The full post discusses the issue further. This has also been reviewed in detail at multiple other blogs, such as here , here, and here. The information was obtained by painstaking intelligence work. In the real world, unlike an episode of 24, there are no simple solutions.

 

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United States Performed Experiments On Detainees

Physicians for Human Rights charges that there were violations of medical ethics during the torture of detainees under the Bush administration, with victims used for experimentation:

Medical professionals who were involved in the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogations of terrorism suspects engaged in forms of human research and experimentation in violation of medical ethics and domestic and international law, according to a new report from a human rights organization.

Doctors, psychologists and other professionals assigned to monitor the C.I.A.’s use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques gathered and collected data on the impact of the interrogations on the detainees in order to refine those techniques and ensure that they stayed within the limits established by the Bush administration’s lawyers, the report found. But, by doing so, the medical professionals turned the detainees into research subjects, according to the report, which is scheduled to be published on Monday by Physicians for Human Rights.

The data collected by medical professionals from the interrogations of detainees allowed the C.I.A. to judge the emotional and physical impact of the techniques, helping the agency to “calibrate the level of pain experienced by detainees during interrogation, ostensibly to keep it from crossing the administration’s legal threshold of what it claimed constituted torture,” the report said. That meant that the medical professionals crossed the line from treating the detainees as patients to treating them as research subjects, the report asserted.

These practices likely violate both domestic and international prohibitions against involuntary human experimentation, including those  based on the  Nuremberg Code.

More at Truthout and The American Prospect.

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Libertarians Right to Object To Characterization of Republicans As Against Government

In several recent speeches, including at Carnegie Mellon University and at The University of Michigan, Barack Obama framed his arguments as a debate over the needs for government actions versus the anti-government Republicans. This is a fair characterization if we are to look at the rhetoric of the Republicans, but not their actual policies. Reason has legitimate reason to complain that the Republicans do not share their libertarian beliefs.

I have pointed out in several previous posts how the Republicans, despite their rhetoric, are really the party of big government. Reason provides some additional arguments to back this up:

Keep in mind, the president is talking specifically here not about libertarian freakazoids who want to privatize their own grandmothers, but about governing Republicans. You know, the gang who, “during the first half of 2001 and all of the 2003-07 period maintained full control of both the White House and Congress,” during which time they “increased total spending by more than 20 percent, an average of 5 percent a year,” jacking up “both nondefense spending and mandatory programs enormously.” How in the hell can you spend so much money on “more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations”? Which one of those two answers (the only ones the GOP has, remember) best describes No Child Left Behind, Sarbanes-Oxley, or Medicare Part D? If Bush was really all about “fewer rules for corporations,” how was it that he managed to be “the biggest regulator since Nixon“? (And do click on those links, they are filled with things like facts and numbers.)

Republicans promote big government at least as much as the Democrats. The difference is that Republican big government tends to be less competent in areas where we want government. Republican big government tends to stress different priorities such as invading other countries, torture, redistributing wealth to the ultra-wealthy, or imposing the views of the religious right upon others.

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American Influence Improves Due To “Obama Effect”

International opinion regarding the United States has rebounded sharply since the Bush years according to a recent BBC survey.It is especially notable that American “soft power” has increased while Chinese influence has been “in neutral.”

For the first time since the annual poll began in 2005, America’s influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative.

The improved scores for the US coincided with Barack Obama becoming president, a BBC correspondent notes.

As in 2009, Germany is viewed most favourably while Iran and Pakistan are seen as the most negative influences…

“People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war,” said Doug Miller, chairman of international polling firm GlobeScan, which carried out the poll with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland.

“While still well below that of countries like Germany and the UK, the global standing of the US is clearly on the rise again.”

Pipa director Steven Kull noted: “After a year, it appears the ‘Obama effect’ is real.

“Its influence on people’s views worldwide, though, is to soften the negative aspects of the United States’ image, while positive aspects are not yet coming into strong focus.”

He added: “While China’s image is stuck in neutral, America has motored past it in the global soft-power competition.”

Of the full list of 28 countries surveyed this year, the US is viewed positively in 19 (20 including the US itself), while six lean negative and two are divided.

Compared with 2009, positive views of the US jumped 21% in Germany, 18 in Russia, 14 in Portugal and 13 in Chile – though Russia and Germany continued to have a negative view of the US overall.

Meanwhile, negative opinions of the US declined by 23% in Spain, 14 in France and 10 in the UK, with the result that all three lean towards a positive view of the country.

Such an improvement  in American influence was anticipated by Obama supporters and Andrew Sullivan points out that, “One argument many of us made in favor of the election of Barack Obama was that he would instantly help the US recover from its nadir of global reputation in the Bush-Cheney pre-emptive war-and-torture era.”

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An American Cry For Help

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment, An American Cry For Help. Video above and full text under the fold.
(more…)

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Schwarzenegger, Powell, and Petraeus Defend Obama on Stimulus And Terrorism

The Sunday interview shows a few cases of Republicans breaking from the party line and supporting Barack Obama’s policies. Arnold Schwarzenegger along with Democrat Ed Rendell discussed how the stimulus was successful, including at creating private sector jobs, on This Week. They also agreed that the Republicans won the spin war in discrediting this successful program, with Schwarzenegger calling his fellow Republicans hypocrites:

“I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on stimulus money and saying this doesn’t create any new jobs, and then they go out and do photo-ops and they’re posing with the big check and they say, ‘Isn’t this great! Look the kind of money I provide here for the state! And this is great money to create jobs, and this has created 10,000 new jobs, and this has created 20,000 new jobs,’” Schwarzenegger said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It doesn’t match up.”

Asked by “This Week” host Terry Moran if that amounted to hypocrisy, Schwarzenegger responded: “Exactly.”

On Face the Nation Colin Powell disagreed with Dick Cheney’s claims that we are less safe under Obama:

Claims that the United States is less safe under President Obama are not credible, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

He also challenged criticism by some (including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who say that by not using extreme interrogation techniques such as waterboarding on terror suspects the United States is more vulnerable.

“The point is made, ‘We don’t waterboard anymore or use extreme interrogation techniques.’ Most of those extreme interrogation techniques and waterboarding were done away with in the Bush administration,” Powell said. “They’ve been made officially done away with in this current administration.”

Gen. David Petraeus disagreed with Dick Cheney regarding torture and  closing Guantanamo on Meet the Press:

Appearing on Meet the Press, the general made a compelling case against torturing terrorist detainees, saying he found it far more pragmatic and beneficial to stick to methods authorized by the army field manual.

“I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values. And I think that whenever we’ve perhaps taken expedient measures, they’ve turned around and bitten us in the backside. We decided early on, in the 101st airborne division, we just said, we decided to obey the Geneva Conventions…

“In the cases where that is not true [where torture takes place or international human rights groups aren't granted access to detention sites] we end up paying a price for it, ultimately,” he added. “Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are non biodegradable. They don’t go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick…. Beyond that, frankly, we have found that the use of interrogation methods in the army field manual that was given the force of law by Congress, that that works.”

Petraeus wasn’t done there. In another contrast with former Vice President Cheney — as well as the vast majority of congressional Republicans — he reiterated his support for closing Gitmo, albeit without a date-specific time frame.

“I’ve been on the record on that for well over a year, saying it should be closed,” he said. “But it should be done in a responsible matter. So I’m not seized with the issue that it won’t be done by a certain date. In fact, I think it is prudent to insure that as we move forward with that, the remaining detainees are relocated and so forth… is really thought through and done in a very pragmatic and sensible manner.”

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Dick Cheney Asks To Be Prosecuted For Violation of Federal Law

Many people have already pointed out that Dick Cheney’s discussion of his role in promoting water boarding on Sunday is essentially a confession to war crimes. Scott Horton questions if he wants to be prosecuted:

“I was a big supporter of waterboarding,” Cheney said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. He went on to explain that Justice Department lawyers had been instructed to write legal opinions to cover the use of this and other torture techniques after the White House had settled on them.

Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques. Prosecutors have argued that a criminal investigation into torture undertaken with the direction of the Bush White House would raise complex legal issues, and proof would be difficult. But what about cases in which an instigator openly and notoriously brags about his role in torture? Cheney told Jonathan Karl that he used his position within the National Security Council to advocate for the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques. Former CIA agent John Kiriakou and others have confirmed that when waterboarding was administered, it was only after receiving NSC clearance. Hence, Cheney was not speaking hypothetically but admitting his involvement in the process that led to decisions to waterboard in at least three cases.

What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it? Such cases cry out for prosecution. Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants.

Whether or not Cheney wants to be prosecuted, he should be tried for his violation of the law. If the actions he described on television are allowed to go unpunished there is no reason for any future president or vice-president to fear repeating Dick Cheney’s crimes.

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Arctic Melting Could Cost Trillions

Two false memes spread by global warming deniers is that 1) this is a prediction of future events as opposed to something which is already happening, and 2) this is a view held by people who are hostile to market economies. A study by the Pew Environment Group shows that melting of the arctic ice caps is already occurring, and already costing billions:

Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released on Friday

“Everybody around the world is going to bear these costs,” said Eban Goodstein, a resource economist at Bard College in New York state who co-authored the report, called “Arctic Treasure, Global Assets Melting Away.”

He said the report, reviewed by more than a dozen scientists and economists and funded by the Pew Environment Group, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, provides a first attempt to monetize the cost of the loss of one of the world’s great weather makers.

“The Arctic is the planet’s air conditioner and it’s starting to break down,” he said.

The loss of Arctic Sea ice and snow cover is already costing the world about $61 billion to $371 billion annually from costs associated with heat waves, flooding and other factors, the report said.

The losses could grow as a warmer Arctic unlocks vast stores of methane in the permafrost. The gas has about 21 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.

Melting of Arctic sea ice is already triggering a feedback of more warming as dark water revealed by the receding ice absorbs more of the sun’s energy, he said. That could lead to more melting of glaciers on land and raise global sea levels.

It is necessary to respond to the effects of climate change which are already occurring. Contrary to the paranoid conspiracy theories popular among many in the anti-science right this view is not motivated by opposition to our industrialized society or market economies or a desire to control the world, but out of a realization that action is needed to preserve our economy.

It is consistent with human nature to deny climate change and avoid having to take action to solve difficult problems such as this. Conservatives and libertarians have the added motivation to deny climate change because it is a problem which can only be addressed by government and by international cooperation.

Conservatives prefer not to admit that any problems require government action for their solution and would prefer to deny that the problem exists. Conservatives might go along with some big government programs, primarily those involving invasion of other countries, torture, or imposing their religious codes upon others. They are far less likely to go along with big government programs which involve cooperation with other countries as opposed to invading them.

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